When we look back at our lives, it is easy to focus on the really dramatic moments: the thrill of the chase, the sweet high of triumph, and the crushing blow of defeat… that time we held onto the cliff’s edge then let go, living to tell the tale. These peak experiences give our lives a sense of meaning. But for some of us, these ups and downs are not enough. Thrill seekers can get the blood pumping by leaping from higher heights and taking bigger risks. But the soul is moved by the biggest leap of all – the epic dive into the depths of the self to truly know who we are, why we are here, and then share the big and little truths that we uncover along the way.
Once we take this leap into self-awareness, the real adventure can begin. There is no greater adventure than the pursuit of purpose. On this journey, our compass is in our hearts. Mentors can describe reliable pathways through the wilderness. And we find treasure along the way including the joy that comes from our purpose being fulfilled. Each of us has this opportunity to choose the adventure of a lifetime: to express our true essence, fulfilling a unique purpose that makes the most of our gifts and with benefits reaching farther and affecting the world more deeply than we can presently imagine. In the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”
In the Beginning…
When we don’t know who we really are and when we don’t know why we are here, we can’t comprehend a purpose for ourselves outside of what we see in the world around us. We can not know what matters most until we know who we are and what we are here to do. But are these things really knowable? Is this just the pursuit of an alternative story equally as valid as the one we are currently living? The proof is in the pudding, as they say… We will know when we start seeing the results.
If this is true, then how did so many of us get lost on the way to purpose?
The Mortality Conspiracy
When we are born, we know we are almighty. Our will be done. We utter a cry and beings rush in to serve us and meet every need. Well, let’s be honest; not every need gets met. And these little glitches slowly enroll us into the consensual reality of limitation. By the time we reach the age of reason (about 7 years old), most of us have been enrolled in schools that teach us to look outside of ourselves for approval. We are praised for fitting into predictable patterns. By the time we complete our education, we are hunting for leftovers… the jobs no one else has filled yet. We twist our minds and emotions into distorted shapes to fit openings that were not created with us in mind.
These occupations were not designed to help us know and express our true essence or fulfill a grand purpose. Instead, we are doing the tasks someone else outgrew in the hopes that we can follow that same track to success. And in this worldview, limitation and separation rule the day. Money is affixed to time (i.e. hourly wage, annual salary, “time is money”). We are separated into boxes labeled with titles that dictate what is expected of us, giving us a sense of superiority and inferiority until we can jump to another layer of the role matrix.
Enrolled in our Stories
In this worldview of limitation, we often see our lives through a dramatic lens, transforming loosely related experiences into a movie-script-like narrative with heroes and villains. We call this “our story” and we enroll people in it every chance we get. We even draft different versions of this story to tell different kinds of people in different situations to attempt to control how we are perceived by others… sometimes to our benefit, and sometimes to prevent the successes we are not ready for. Our stories are requested at parties, often by others who likely are just looking for an excuse to tell us their own. Entertainment becomes a replacement for fulfillment, and we wonder why we are often not happy.
Defined by the World
The world of limitation requires us to be clearly defined. It steers us toward an identity created by connecting to things outside of us.
“My favorite color is _____.”
“The only good music is _____.”
We identify ourselves by a tendency to repeat past choices and the outcomes of these repeating choices.
“I’m a hard worker.”
“I’m a good person.”
“I suck at Scrabble.”
We compare ourselves to what we find in the world to associate with known quantities.
“I am smarter than half of my class.”
“I am a better person than my parents.”
These definitions seem reasonable and even helpful when trying to get by in society today. Modern American culture encourages us to identify ourselves with outside things and our relationships to those things in order to connect with others. (Oh the irony! Not seeing it? Keep reading.) This leads us to the idea that, somehow, by minimizing the self into simple definitions, we can attract like-minded individuals. And if we commit to these definitions, people will know what to expect from us. So we dutifully fill out social and dating profiles with our favorite movies, TV shows, sports teams, music, etc., investing in extensive collections of stuff, as if what we like today must define us forever.
This makes us predictable. This makes it easy for friends and family to buy us birthday presents and make us our favorite meals. It creates a bubble of relative safety (a.k.a. a comfort zone) where we can exist and expect to avoid pain… most of the time. And after we have formed a sophisticated identity out of what we find in the world, we defend these associations with the outer world ferociously when they are challenged. Because if they are not true, then we would be left exposed and vulnerable in a chaotic world of uncertainty. Yikes! No thank you.
The Costs of Limitation
Once we define ourselves in this way to others, we become accountable to maintain this facade. Every day we put on the show for others, slowly diminishing ourselves by retelling these lies of limitation, feeling forced to do and say things that are not authentic to how we feel somewhere so deep inside. Eventually, we fracture our sense of self into sub-personalities: the person I am on the inside, the person I have to be at work, the person I have to be with the family, the person I am at church, etc. Each choice to limit ourselves into these separated roles is an affirmation of our limitation and our mortality. We are saying that there is only so much I can be, do and even like. And even worse, time is running out.
We may make these choices to be accepted in groups, but the side-effects lead to entrenchment in our differences. Rather than question our current state of self-awareness, we set up those that don’t share our beliefs as “others” who are different. If we continue down this rational path, we look at our reasons for our beliefs and feel superior to those who disagree, making them less than us, justifying all manner of judgment, animosity and even violence. Look at sports fans for rival teams as an example. Both love the same sport and the skill it takes to play, yet the animosity can be so strong it can erupt in intense and sometimes life-threatening violence.
The Culture of Limitation
When we look around, we can see messages of limitation and mortality EVERYWHERE. Marketing tells us we are broken and we need products to complete us. Our entertainment tells us that we are incomplete without relationships. We are taught to compete for limited time and resources. We obsess about our appearance as if our beauty were only skin deep. At the same time, we see certain individuals rise above this noise and prove this system wrong. There are clear triumphs of the human spirit when we rise to the occasion to pull off the impossible. There must be something else going on that can offer an alternate perspective on what this human experience is all about.
The Eternity Theory
If you look past the surface teachings of the institutional religions of the world and into their mystic roots, you can find a common theme: we are not purely physical beings. Our true essence is Spirit, and Spirit is eternal. In other words, we have never been born and therefore, we can never die. Let’s entertain this concept for a moment.
If this is true, then this entire experience of physical existence – all of the things we are involved in and witness here – are souvenirs we collect during our brief vacation in physical reality. If we can view life through this lens, the things that we experience are just that… experiences, and not chapters in a greater story that defines us. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.
OK… but why?
If we are really eternal spirits, why would we do all of this to ourselves? Why would we cram our infinite existence in this tiny and fragile monkey-meat suit? If we could be anywhere and anything, why would we choose an existence (however temporary) filled with limitation and suffering? Why, indeed! There must be a reason… a PURPOSE significant enough to make us leave behind the awesome experience of eternity to take on this mortal coil. And this purpose is perhaps what matters most. And it is our connection to our Spirit that leads us to the revelation of this purpose.
In Pursuit of Purpose
The adventure of discovering purpose is as old as humanity. Ancient traditions all over the world are full of stories of those who sought this treasure. Some, like the Greeks, shared tales of purpose filled with heroes (and anti-heroes) that possessed special gifts. Odysseus, Hercules, and Persephone all had special gifts or special access to the gods through patronage or parentage. This thing that made them special also connected them to the destiny of fulfilling a purpose. Similar stories are loved by movie-going audiences in the form of the Marvel and DC movies, which are full of superheroes and special abilities. Many remember when Spiderman, a high-school-aged superhero, receives some important advice from his Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Is purpose only for the special ones? Does it take special access to the divine or superhuman abilities to pursue purpose? According to the ancient Mystery School traditions, it does, but not how you might expect. Hermetic Philosophy and Universal Kabbalah say that we need to be able to experience two important things before we are ready to embark on the adventurous pursuit of purpose:
#1 – Our worthiness.
We have to value ourselves enough to generate the desire to know who we are and why we are here. This placement of value on self means choosing the self as the master of our destiny, becoming open to a life we define for ourselves rather than the one defined by others.
#2 – The desire to know.
Worthiness opens the door, but it is our desire to know, experience and understand the truth that propels us outside of what we know and initiates the adventure of a lifetime.
Who can accomplish this?
Theoretically, everyone has the potential to engage in the pursuit of purpose. But it is a choice, and it is a rare few with the courage to go against what they have been told to approach the deeper truths of who we are and why we are here.
This Adventure Needs a Hero
For many of us, shifting into a life of purpose and fulfillment requires a catalyst… an experience that gets us to look at our lives objectively, revealing the lie of living the life as it has been defined by others. These experiences can take many forms. In the hero’s journey (as described by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler), this stage is called The Call to Adventure. Something happens to disrupt our otherwise comfortable life. It can take the form of a simple invitation. It can also be a painful loss. This pivotal moment can take a variety of forms, but the result is a new awareness that purpose is possible. This leads us to a choice.
Refusing the Call
The most common response to this call to purpose is to first reject it. I know, right? Why would we leave everything we know behind for an adventure with no guarantees of treasure at the end? What makes me so special? If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Then comes the excuses. We don’t have the time, money or energy to take this on right now. We will look into this after we take care of this, that or some other thing. We separate ourselves from the potential for a time, but for some of us, this new awareness is like a seed that soon blooms into a desire for change.
Finding a Mentor
What can happen next can feel like a miracle. This desire lights us up and we find our way to a mentor. Someone is revealed who displays some experience with this new awareness we are just coming into. In Star Wars, Luke finds a mentor in Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Wait a minute, another Uncle Ben?) The mentor is someone who likely doesn’t have it all figured out yet and might be a bit flawed, but they have enough experience to recognize our desire and can offer advice as we start out on our own adventure. They affirm us and our desires as worthy. They give us hope that there may be something to this purpose thing after all.
Teachers & Systems
Now that we have a mentor, we start asking lots of questions. We are skeptical of the answers, as we should be. We try things we observe our mentor is doing. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we fail. And if we press hard enough, we can learn where our mentor learned what they know. And this can be what leads us to tradition – a system filled with effective tools and techniques that have been passed down for generations or even millennia. Just like in Star Wars, the primary role of the mentor becomes preparing us for and leading us to our true teacher, a master of purpose with access to tradition (i.e. Yoda).
Recognizing a Valid Tradition
Unfortunately, The Mortality Conspiracy includes some false teachers and systems that claim to set us free to express our true purpose, but instead offer another system of limitation. Knowing the difference between an effective pathway to purpose and just another system of illusion and control is fairly simple. Look for the difference between enabling and empowering.
Enabling happens when another interferes with the learning of an individual by eliminating, redefining or diminishing an obstacle, setting in the pattern of dependency on another for future development.
Empowerment means giving an individual the time, tools and opportunity to overcome their own obstacles, establishing skills that can lead to taking on greater challenges, allowing the individual to own their successes and failures while cultivating resilience and independence.
An empowering tradition will often look and feel strange because it is not part of the Mortality Conspiracy or the Culture of Limitation as described above. Members act in ways that appear to be against their own self-interest to protect something that may be hard to understand. This is because they are protecting a tradition that is greater than themselves. They prioritize the integrity of the tools, and the ability of others to access these tools in the most effective ways to get the best results.
When trying a new system, it is natural to put it to the test. We challenge what has been given to us, and a true system of empowerment will be resilient to testing and prove itself to us through the results that come from applying its tools.
The Time is Now
If you have read this far without screaming at this screen, then you have already passed the base tests of worthiness and desire. You have considered the possibility that the world presented to us is not all there is. If you feel ready for adventure, purpose, and fulfillment, then fan the flame of desire in your heart. There are mentors and teachers out there if you can learn to recognize them. Each of us can express our true essence, fulfilling a unique purpose that might change the world more deeply than we can imagine. The time is now, and this page is an open door to those ready for the adventure of a lifetime.